Funds drive for Southwold Scout hut refurbishment
10:40 25 April 2014
Ambitious plans are being drawn up to renovate and extend Southwold’s 1940s Scout hall.
The building, next to the Stella Peskett Millennium Hall in Mights Road, has had very little investment since it was built almost 66 years ago.
But now the committee behind the 1st Southwold Scout Group wants to bring it up-to-date for the benefit of the growing number of Scouts, Cubs and Beavers and community groups that use it.
Members are preparing to submit a planning application to Waveney District Council in the next few weeks. It has been drawn up by Southwold-based architect John Bennett as a gift to the group.
The proposals include a new toilet and shower block at the back of the building, replacing the 20-year-old kitchen, installing a new heating system, decorating the interior of the hall and restoring the original parquet flooring.
There are also plans to seal up the front entrance and build a small committee room above, reinstate a small stage, create new disabled access, renovate the exterior of the hall and build a small dormitory at the side of the building to enable the Southwold group to host Scouts, Cubs and Beavers from further afield.
The full cost of the scheme has yet to be confirmed but it is expected to be about £200,000 and the group is preparing to launch a fund-raising campaign, starting with a stall at the Sole Bay Lions fete on Southwold Common on May 26.
The Scout group’s chairman, the Rev Peter Trendall, said a successful campaign to raise £30,000 for a new roof, which was installed last year, had focused people’s minds on the state of the building.
“Having done the roof, we realised that it looked a poor relation next to the Millennium Hall,” he said. “We thought the time had come when we needed to do a bit more.
“We started working on a further improvement project. It was going to be in two stages but now may only be in one if we can raise the money.
“We have still got a building fund and put a bit in when we can.”
He added: “We are very conscious this is one of the first buildings people see as they drive into Southwold. It is not a good advertisement, especially next to the blue hoardings.”
The existing Scout hall was opened in October 1948 and, although it remains in a good state of repair, it needs updating.
The toilets are currently up a small flight of stairs but the new toilet block will be accessible by a ramp. The second-hand kitchen was installed in 1994 and is in need of replacing, having been well used over the last two decades.
The floor has suffered water damage from leaks in the old roof and the hall is poorly insulated, meaning it is bitterly cold in the winter.
Mr Trendall said: “At one stage we talked about knocking it all down and starting again but the cost of that was too much. We had a survey done which showed the building is basically good and the cost of building an entirely new hall next to the Millennium Hall seemed ridiculous.
“We came to terms with the fact we had to improve what we had.”
There has been a continuous Scout group in Southwold for at least 100 years. Its members come from the town and surrounding area, including Reydon, Wrentham, Blythburgh, Walberswick, Wangford, Wenhaston and Lowestoft.
The hall is also used by local groups, including the Southwold Art Circle and a local table tennis club and it hosts jumble sales and other events.
Acting group Scout leader Sarah Britten said the troop had been fortunate to have a hall built from bricks so soon after the war, when building materials were in demand.
She said she believed the hall would be wonderful when it was finished.
She added: “The encouraging thing about all of this is that the group itself is growing. We went through a period when numbers were quite small but in the last year or so things have been very encouraging.
“We have got more than 20 Beavers and a waiting list to join, We have got about a dozen Cubs and a Scout troop of about seven.
“It is a big difference to about two years ago when there were times I wondered whether it would survive. The new roof has kicked a bit of life into everybody and reminded people that we are here.”
■ The 1st Southwold Scout Group will be helping to sow seeds to create a community wildflower area at Ladies Walk in Southwold tomorrow. Volunteers are asked to meet at St James’ Green by the cannons at 10am and bring a rake if possible.
■ For more information on volunteering for the group, or to support the renovation project, contact Mrs Britten on 01502 724617 or Bob Mole on 07774 044191.